Pierce County Charter Amendments on the Ballot

I’ve gotten a few questions already about the Charter amendments on this year’s ballot so I thought I’d answer them here.

What’s a Charter?

Basically it’s Pierce County’s constitution. Counties in Washington can choose to become home-rule meaning that they can set their own rules for governance. For example, state law provides for counties to operate under the commission system with three elected officials operating as both the legislative and executive branches of government. Charter counties tend to split those functions between a council of varying size and elected executive.

Didn’t we just do this last year?

Every 10 years the Charter calls for creation of a 21 member Charter Review Commission that can suggest changes on the ballot. Many were considered at that time with a handful making the cut and two enacted by voters.

However, a supermajority of the Council can also send charter amendments to the ballot. One of the measures approved by voters last year was by this method.

What do the amendments accomplish?

Charter Amendment #46 is basically a technical correction. Years ago voters approved charter amendments making some elected executive branch offices (Auditor, Assessor, Sheriff) non-partisan.

Unfortunately the process for filling a vacancy only contemplates a partisan office and grants the party that held the office last, the opportunity to nominate three candidates to replace them.

It was placed on the ballot by unanimous vote, 5–0 vote (Councilmembers Pam and Dan Roach were absent).

Charter Amendment #47 is about term limits. When voters made the executive positions above non-partisan, they also extended the term limit to three consecutive terms rather than two.

This proposal would follow suit with the Council. It was placed on the ballot by a 6–1 vote. In this case I was the lone dissenter.

Why did you vote no?

I went into some detail in this post after the proposal’s introduction. To be clear, the reason for my vote is entirely about respecting the work of the Charter Review Commission which chose not to forward the question to voters. I actually think there’s merit to changing the limit and leave that up to your judgement.

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